Suddenlys and Falling Leaves…

One of the Millennials that I work with said something very interesting to me a few weeks ago…

[Please note that when I say, “one of the Millennials,” it’s with a surprising amount of love and respect. I say, “surprising,” because a lot of people in the “millennial” demographic have honestly bugged the holy heck out of me. This girl though (this young woman, excuse me)–she continually surprises me with words of self-empowerment and wisdom that I WISH I had at her age (or at MY age), and I learn a lot from her. When I turned 40, I told myself I was going to stop making apologies over everything. Emma has been a very influential voice that has echoed that sentiment, and even though we don’t always agree, I can’t help but to admire her strength and almost-frightening level of self-acceptance. Her story is encouraging and beautiful, and tough and scary, and it’s not mine to tell…but what I can say, is that she’s still standing, and that she has so much more becoming to do…There is so much beauty in her, and she doesn’t know it, but one day I will tell her just how much she’s taught me. I just want to sit on the sidelines and watch her bloom; there’s such a richness in her soul…she’s amazing.]

I digress.

Anyway, Emma looked at my Instagram feed, and said something to the effect of, “You guys LIVE for weekends.” It’s so true. My house is a wreck, I’d hire a housecleaner to bulldoze the kitchen in a second, and I barely stay on top of the laundry, but you know what? No one talks about a clean house when they tell the stories of their childhood. David & I are two very busy adults trying to keep a roof over our heads and raise a kiddo while working full-time and not abandoning either our families or our marriage, and it gets challenging. Monday through Friday, we barely seem to have time to carry on a full conversation, but on Saturday and Sunday? We refuel and burn it up in laughter.

Every weekend isn’t awesome, for sure. We’re far from rich, so we’re always doing things on the cheap; by the end of this hot summer, we’re sick of parks and tired of sweating to death…but October? Oh, you sweet, beautiful, melancholy month, how I love you!!!

I used to face the end of October like Grover in the “Monster at the End of This Book.” Hannah’s birthday is on the 30th, so every fall, I’d watch the days change on the calendar, and with every leaf that fell, my heart would break. For five long years, the month of October was crushing…but then, we were given the gift of making new memories, and of filling those painful places with peace and joy and anticipation…I have the greatest gift of having been given beauty for ashes, and for that, I can only sit back and praise God.

October still comes with “suddenlys….” I still have moments where my breath will catch, as a memory comes back, or with different realizations (I think I mentioned in my last blog that I realized out of nowhere that Hannah would be turning 13 this year. I’m still coming to grips with that one). Today, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a picture taken at Thee Abbey in Arcadia Valley. The owner had posted a picture of her two children with puppies, and I suddenly remembered that we had been pregnant with our daughters at the same time. She was baking cinnamon rolls in the restaurant, and I was working long hours doing makeup on a film project. We were pregnant at the same time, and there was her beautiful girl, showing up on my social media feed. I doubt they remember me, or that we were pregnant at the same time…Thee Abbey holds a very special place in my heart, for multiple reasons, and we go back there several times a year, but it’s not like we’re friends with the owners or anything. We were just two women with dreams of families, who had very different outcomes from the same seasons in our lives.

It’s in those moments that I still make conscious decisions. Those are the “sink or swim” moments, those “suddenlys.” Do they become a noose or a beacon? Do I drown in the waves? Do I pause, take a breath, and let the tears fall? Oh, my Jesus….how many bottles in Heaven are marked with my name? He knows, because He cares about every tear that’s fallen on this journey and beyond…

Do I rush through the thoughts that hit, ignoring them even as I know they’ll come back to me later, when I finally have some quiet time to process them?

Should I even be affected by these moments anymore?

Those moments…some of those moments are huge, while others are minute, but they do still happen. When they do, it’s a conscious decision to move forward, to pause, or even to fall apart (which doesn’t happen very often, thankfully). There are conscious decisions to remain hopeful and wholehearted, to not become bitter or faithless. Sometimes, I hear other women tell their birth stories, and it gets hard to not be angry or hateful. Sometimes even now, old pieces of things I thought I forgave, as far as my medical care went, come up and I get mad. Two women in line next to me in a resale shop were bragging about how they had their babies out in public at 1-and-2 days old. I said, “Wow, you’re brave.” They laughed and said, “well, that’s how you GOT to do it!” One of them went on her way, but I quietly said to the other, “We lost our first from something very common…I didn’t leave the house with my second, except to go to the doctor, for 6 weeks.” The look on her face said it all–perspective. When other moms look at you like you’re some kind of germ-phobic freak or a helicopter mom, it’s hard not to lash out. There’s a conscious decision that’s made, to either tell the story in kindness, say silent and put up with the awkwardness and feel completely inauthentic, or to tell the story in a way to slap them upside their heads for judging your parenting. I’ve done all of the above, and I’m not proud of that fact.

There are conscious decisions made that people who haven’t walked this road will never understand, and that’s perfectly fine. I refuse to apologize for the fact that I am a woman who has given birth and said “goodbye,” and that this is the season where those memories and dreams are the closest to the surface….

So, like Emma said, we “LIVE for the weekends,” ESPECIALLY in the fall. October is full of everything beautiful…the trees are putting on their finest colors just before they blaze out into their rest, and I want to celebrate every one of them. I want the “basic” life of pumpkins and spice and bonfires. I want my (second-hand) UGGs and my leggings, and I want to jump into every pile of leaves I can find. I’m not a huge fan of corn mazes (I did my first one last week; it was a kids’ version, and it freaked me OUT), but I dig pumpkin patches! We didn’t do that kind of stuff when I was a kid, but we’re sure enjoying them now.

When the second lady in line at the store was talking to me about Hannah, Jericho jumped into the conversation: “I’m a rainbow baby!” I don’t know if she knew what he meant, but I laughed because it was the first time I’ve ever heard him tell a stranger that fact. It kind of blew me away–what does it mean, to grow up, knowing that about yourself? I had a friend chime in on an Instagram post that she was a rainbow baby, and that she loved knowing about what that meant; she said she loved that her parents never hid the truth from her, and that blessed me. I never wanted to keep it from him, but I also never wanted it to be a burden, so we always want to paint his birth as the miracle to us that it truly was. He knows he’s special (maybe a little TOO well, LOL).

We have this chance–we have this GIFT–to LIVE, and to live well. We have this opportunity to seriously carpe diem–to seize the day (can you tell I grew up in the 90’s?)–and to make amazing memories of each season. Jericho is no doubt spoiled. He hates the weekends where we’ve stayed home, and I get it. We don’t stay home on the weekends very often (although to be fair, we don’t go anywhere during the week. Total hermits.), and he expects an adventure. When he doesn’t get it? He’s kind of a punk, and I can say that as his mother. 🙂 And even today, after we drove for 2 hours, did a cool hayride, got lost in a maze, shoveled pizza in our faces in the car, and ate something amazing called a “cinnamon chimney,” he STILL had some bratty moments–he’s 6, and there was a LOT of walking–and I found myself wondering why I try to do cool stuff. Um, kiddo, I’m going to admit that sometimes, I am the one that wants to do the cool stuff, and you’re along for the ride. I want to make these memories with you, so stop whining and smile for the camera (“You will smile for this picture, or SO HELP ME GOD!” #TheStruggleIsReal). I want to make the cool memories, and I want to look back at that awesome photo book that I make at the end of every year, and look at this amazing life that God has given us.

I know that life in pictures is only part of the story…but what a beautiful part of the story it is. I have to laugh–when I was 8, my mom took my sister and I to Disneyworld. There’s a really cute photo album somewhere that shows us in all of our glory in Florida…but do you know what we still laugh about to this day? The fact that my sister and I were absolute MONSTERS on that trip. OHMYGOSH, I can’t–we whined so much, and my mom had to have busted her rear to pay for that trip; we were SUCH punks, I can’t even…AND I AM REMINDED OF THAT TRIP, EVERY TIME I TAKE MY SON TO DO SOMETHING COOL, AND HE WHINES. Like, #KARMA. I have to laugh. We have the pictures, and we have the memories, and oh, what a life we get to experience!!!!

Life is hard. It is–it’s a struggle for so many of us. But we have each day to start over, to make new memories and to make the conscious decisions to breathe, to move forward, to celebrate and to grieve. We have the opportunity to celebrate the sweet and to not become bitter…we have the chance to stop apologizing when we’re doing our best, and to accept the love Jesus offers us. We have the choice to pick grace, and to put one foot in front of the other on this journey, and to help others to do the same. Fall is the season of such incomparable beauty. I hope and pray that you get to embrace it and the changes that come along in it. “LIVE for your weekends,” and if you can, let the dishes wait a bit while you make some memories–and don’t make any apologies for it, dang it. You carpe that diem, dangit, and light up your Instagram feed!!!!

Seriously, though–take every chance you can to enjoy this season. May your “suddenlys” and your fall leaves remind you that you are loved by our Creator who made all of the beauty that you see, just to bring you closer to Him. ❤

“Let Me Entertain You….” Or How About Not?

My weeks are crazy. I work full-time, I drive around 2 hours/day round-trip for my commute, and I try to run a livable household. I know that’s not anywhere near as crazy as some people’s lives, but it’s a full plate for me. I’m grateful to have my husband as a partner-in-crime, but during the week, we feel a bit like “ships that pass in the night.” It’s why we cram SO much into our weekends, and why my house stays messy. I’d rather make life experiences and memories on the weekend, then deep-clean my house. No kid ever grows up and says, “Gee, remember all of the fun we had while cleaning the house? Remember how much we LOVED a clean floor?”

Nope.

So, my house is messy, but my heart is full, on the weekend.

During the week, however, it’s a different story (okay, my house is still messy, even during the week). During the week, for me, I’m up at 4am, off to work by 5:15, in my office by 6; I leave at 3, get Rico from school at 4, try to come up with something for dinner (and cook it, unless I just say “to heck with it,” and feed him peanut butter sammies), and I’m usually in bed by 8. The days kind of blur together, and I know that’s common.

When I get home from work, there’s this feeling of absolute hectic panic that sents in. What am I making for dinner?!? What groceries do I have? WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS CHILD GOING TO EAT?!?!?!?!? Meanwhile, while I”m assessing the supplies, Jericho is throwing a three-ring circus in our little living room, complete with occasional yells of, “LOOK AT ME, MAMA! LOOK AT ME!!!!”

Sometimes, I stop everything and I take a look at the chaos he’s created. His little imagination is the greatest gift, and I love to see where his brain takes him.

Sometimes, I can’t stop (raw chicken, anyone?), and I have to yell back, “I’m sorry, honey, but I can’t! I’m making dinner.”

Occasionally, this conversation upsets him or makes him angry; usually, he just keeps repeating himself incessantly until I finally am able to stop what I’m doing, and give him my full attention.

One thing I really wanted to stress when becoming a mom, was that I never, ever wanted to be too busy to give my son what he needs in life. If that’s a hug, if that’s a cuddle–I always wanted to be able to stop the world and give him that gift. I wanted to be present for every single moment of motherhood. It didn’t come easily to me, and I always wanted him to know he was more important than anything or anyone in my life.

Medically, that hasn’t always been the case. Whereas some women are physically just made to be moms, I’m pretty sure I’m not one of them. After I had my daughter, I went into heart failure. I did the same thing with Jericho (though not nearly as badly). 4 years after having Hannah, I had issues with fibroids, scar tissue, and an abdominal wall fusion that required major surgery. A few months after having Jericho, I had 2 different procedures to get rid of my evil gall bladder. This was followed by a complete hysterectomy (again, scar tissue and fibroids) and a thyroidectomy due to thyroid cancer. Being without a thyroid has been the most challenging part of my entire convoluted medical history; the fatigue, combined with the emotional imbalances that come when you don’t have a thyroid to regulate your hormones, have made things difficult. David has really had to jump in more than anyone realizes, to keep our son well-cared for when I literally cannot get out of bed.

I’ve done really well since earlier this year; earlier this year, I wound up with mono, which meant that I spent a lot of days coming home from work, fumbling through something quick-and-easy for dinner, praying for David to just get home from work, and then going to bed at 6pm. Maintaining that level of fatigue is nearly impossible, and it took some pushing for me to get the right diagnosis with my PCP. Once we knew what it was, and that it wasn’t thyroid-related, David & I both took a breath. Had I been that tired on what was looking like a permanent level? We had no idea what we were going to do.

So, gradually, I’ve felt better and better, and now, I’m back to my “normal” post-thyroidectomy self. My levels are good, our house is still standing, and our child is happy….

Unless I can’t stop everything and pay attention to him.

On Wednesday, Jericho wanted me to hold him for a while. I started to say, “just let me read the paper,” but stopped mid-sentence, picked him up, and put him on my lap. The fact that he WANTS me to hold him, has an expiration date. I’m aware of it more and more, so I take the hugs whenever I can get them…unless raw chicken is involved.

Yesterday, he was running amok in the living room, and wanted to me to come and watch him. I was making dinner and dealing with raw chicken, so I told him that I couldn’t come into the living room. He was frustrated, but I explained that raw chicken is disgusting, and that I was up to my elbows in grossness. His fascination with gross outweighed his frustration, so he acquiesced to my instructions to “stay in the living room!!!”

This means that he promptly came into the kitchen to watch the rest of my food prep.

While I was working on dinner, I found myself having one of those internal conversations with God: “Lord, I wish I had a clone. I wish I could take the time and pay more attention to him, but there is just so much work to be done.” I think my Mom-Guilt was in full play.  I mean, why am I working? I’m working because we’re broke. Why are we broke? BECAUSE I SHOP TOO DANG MUCH. Oh, and we’ve also had 2 million-dollar babies, periods of extended unemployment, one year with 2 mortgages (2008), and blah-blah-blah. We’re in debt. So are most Americans. I work to work on debt and to prevent more. I work to provide a future for my son. I work because I’m good at it, and I like it. I work for a lot of different reasons. The mom-shaming that is so exacerbated by social media is something that I simply do not have time to embrace. This is how I parent. Go parent your own way for your own child. I refuse to embrace the judgment ascribed by so many that do not work, or even by so many that do. We are a double-income family because we HAVE to be. Period.

But my conversation with God, though brief, really summed up a lot. I wish I had a clone, or maybe more hours, or maybe an assistant (HA!), or Rosie the Robot. I wish there was more of me (and less pounds of me). I wish I could be a perfect, always-present parent.

I am not.

And I felt God answer in His way, in His beautiful, gentle way, into the recesses of my heart: “You are a good mom. Your heart is always with your son. Even when you’re not paying attention to him in his way, you are paying attention to him.

It’s not your job to entertain your son.  It’s your job to care for your son.”

Consider me undone, Lord.

Sometimes caring for my son means I focus on making him a healthy dinner, instead of embracing the circus in the living room.

Sometimes caring for my son means I surrender to knowing that I can’t do it all, and to trusting the man God gave me to do more than he should have to do.

Sometimes caring for my son means I tell him, “not right now.”

I wonder how many times God has said the same to me? “Cassidy, My job is to love you…to care for you…not to entertain you.

My job is not to tell you what you want to hear.

My job is not to give you the material things you want (hello, iPhoneX!).

My job is not to make your life easy.

My job is to love you.

My job is to call you to higher things and higher thoughts.

My job is to draw you into Me, and for you to run with Me.

My job is to be your Bridegroom, and for you to understand what it means to be my Bride.”

Oh, Jesus….to be Your Bride…

Suddenly, all of the accoutrements of stress wash off, and I’m laid out before God. I’m reminded of my only job–my Only Job–even above being a wife and a mother.

My job is to love Him.

My job is to make Him the center of it all…the goal of my every day, the focus of my every moment. My job is to be for Him, above all others…and in that, everything else comes into alignment.

Regardless of the chaos of the day, the endless need to give attention to others, the rush, the pace, and the fatigue, He is my Center.

He’s not my “entertainment.”

He’s my heart.